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‘We are part of the tapestry’: Black Iranians launch collective | News



She sits with an air of reflection, a tea in one hand, staring into the moon over the Gulf through the window. Next to her are two books, one titled Iranian. The second one is opened – and on a fresh page she has written down and underlined the word “Africa”.

It is a scene from Siyaa Zibaast (Black is Beautiful), an animated short series. The woman depicted is Khyzran Khanum, a 22-year old who was kidnapped from Tanzania and sold as a slave in Iran in the mid-1800s.

Despite being told to remain home, Khyzran hears from another enslaved woman about the potential of petitioning for her freedom. British records from the port city of Bandar Lengeh show she fled, and sought out freedom by pushing for her emancipation. However, there are no records to show what came of her story. 

The animated series is one of many works that will be featured by the Collective for Black Iranians, a newly launched group which focuses on amplifying representation of Black and Afro Iranians – something that is long overdue, explains the founder, Priscillia Kounkou-Hoveyda.

“When we process the idea of being Iranian, we should also be able to envision Blackness and Africanness as being a part of it, because it is,” Kounkou-Hoveyda says.

The collective is held by three pillars – amplify, educate, advocate.

“The idea is to emphasise stories of Black Iranians, stories of people who come from cultures between Africa and Iran, and Iranians of African descent.”

Kounkou-Hoveyda was born in France to a Congolese father and an Iranian mother, and spent her childhood between Tehran and Isfahan during the Iran-Iraq War.

Kounkou-Hoveyda has vivid memories of the bombardment. She remembers “running to the zirzamin [underground], staying there for hours while my grandad read the Quran so that the bombing stops”.

She now recounts those memories when speaking to child soldiers, working to facilitate their release as part of her work with UN and non-governmental agencies in Africa.

The collective is a side project and a “labour of love” she has launched with five others spanning four different countries.

Literature, short films, music and photography, all by the perspective of Black Iranians will be shared on the platform as well as an education campaign on topics such as Iran’s history of slavery – which was abolished only in 1929 – and the representation of Black people in Iranian society. 

Most recently, it featured material exploring the rarely discussed 10th-century migration of Iranians to the Swahili coast. Along with creating a shared culture, it is thought to be responsible for Persian architecture in Africa. 

“[The collective] is the desire, determination to show the beauty of our Blackness in our community. And if we are accepting and celebrating it, we are able to decrease anti-Blackness sentiments in the Iranian diaspora.”

That racism, Kounkou-Hoveyda has described as a “different kind of war” she has faced, from friends, strangers and even Iranian relatives. 

“I wish these conversations had happened 20 years ago, so that it would have informed the people who told me to eat more sabzi [herbs] because it’ll make you white, or the people who rubbed my skin a little stronger,” she says.

“And this is not an ignorance that’s limited to Iran, I experience otherness when I go shopping in Iranian markets in America,” referring to the constant questioning of her Iranian heritage.

“I believe that if we build education around it, we might not completely solve it, but we can start conversations about it.”

The education portion is spearheaded by Beeta Baghoolizadeh, assistant professor of history and Africana studies at Bucknell University. 

The greatest density of Iranians of African descent is in the country’s south. The majority are descendants of those who arrived as a result of forced migration during the Indian Ocean slave trade, while some migrated as free peoples through occupations such as date harvesters and merchants.

For nearly 10 years, Baghoolizadeh has focused her research on the constructions of race in 19th and 20th century Iran, through the lens of slavery and abolition.

“The process of abolition was really one of erasure,” Baghoolizadeh says. “Reza Shah‘s government didn’t want to talk about it after abolition, and it created this collective amnesia.”

The topic does not appear in history textbooks, and more so, she says, since there was no humanitarian effort as part of abolition, there was no attempt made to make space for freed peoples in the economy.

“There weren’t really any new opportunities given to free peoples and their descendants for upward mobility.”

Interested in getting to know Iran’s south for herself, Kounkou-Hoveyda has in recent years made several trips there.

“Every time I go I specifically spend time with Black Iranians, Afro-Iranians,” she says. “It’s a process that has been very interesting for me, in wanting to connect my African side to my Iranian side not as two entities that are separate from one another, but as two that are a part of one another.”

One of those connections was with Sarah Farajzadeh, now the group’s resident storyteller. 

As an Iranian of African descent growing up in the city of Bushehr, Farajzadeh has been sharing the stories of those around her through poetry and photography on social media, where the pair originally connected. 

“I’m inspired by the people around me, mostly the women, who have become heroes of their own stories despite the barriers that Black people face in Iran,” Farajzadeh says in Farsi. 

“We’re going through a period of cultural change, and everyone has their part to do. I want to contribute in this way to change peoples’ perspective by showing our beauty and sharing our perspective.”

Farajzadeh says she will also be showcasing Afro-Iranian culture through music and film alongside a team of others in Bushehr – a city steeped in art. 

“It’s filled with singers, musicians, actors, and artists,” she says. “It’s impossible to live in Bushehr without art being a part of how you express yourself.”

Sarah Farajzadeh has been sharing the stories of Iranians of African descent through poetry and photography [Al Jazeera]

The collective Kounkou-Hoveyda envisioned came together with their friendship in Bushehr, Farajzadeh says.

It also came together through a similar connection she made, but this time in Canada. That was with Alex Eskandarkhah, of Afro-Iranian descent, and co-founder of the collective. 

Eskandarkhah is a frequent voice on issues of race in Edmonton’s community and local media. His basketball scholarship is what brought him there from Toronto, and also led to a stint playing semi-professionally in Iran. 

“Conversations have been happening without us, so it’s a matter of time this collective came out,” Eskandarkah says. 

“We challenge but it’s necessary. We need to be starting healthy dialogues to take us away from these fixed mindsets,” adding that he is big on dialogue, naturally so, as the co-host of the podcast Gifted Gab, exploring topics of trends and culture.

He starts most episodes giving a shoutout to his family business, Kashan Persian Rugs. But his favourite episode is one hosted with his brother back in June, where they touch on the Black Lives Matter movement, representation, and their roots. 

“We talk about how knowing your roots is a very empowering thing that we sometimes take for granted,” Eskandarkah says, “At times it’s a luxury. As a Black person, I know a lot of guys that didn’t have that luxury.”

Black Iranians Alex

Based in Canada, Alex Eskandarkhah is a co-founder of the new collective [Al Jazeera]

His mother is Afro-Iranian from Abadan, and of Nigerian descent. He says spending time with that side of the family during his visit to Iran was a formative experience.

The Collective for Black Iranians is the first platform of its kind to cater to its demographic where the material will be featured in both English and Farsi, in an effort to challenge the current standard of representation. 

“Bringing in the history and pairing it in with these personal stories really gives weight to both,” Baghoolizadeh says. “When you have personal stories you see the history is not irrelevant, and when you see the history you see the personal stories aren’t just peoples’ opinions.”

Among the projects in the works is a multimedia piece made up of short snippets from Black and Afro-Iranian voices in the diaspora, titled Can You See Us?

The collective is determined to make their faces seen and their voices heard. 

As one of its first posts reads, “We are part of the tapestry of what it means to be Iranian. If you look closely, you will see us.”

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

Source –

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

Source –

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